CNCC board evaluates free-tuition program

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Moffat County students at Colorado Northwestern Community College Craig campus may be asked to shell out a portion of tuition costs in the future.

That's an option Dean Hollenbeck, the vice president of the college, presented to the Moffat County Affiliated College District Monday night as an option to offset the school's increasing costs.

The college district is the local board that oversees the Craig campus. Moffat County students who attend CNCC can receive tuition scholarships to cover 100 percent of tuition costs, but that doesn't include student fees or book costs.

A voter-approved mill levy ensures that Moffat County students are relieved of at least 50 percent of tuition costs, but CNCC board members voted in 2002 to subsidize 100 percent of students' tuition costs, Hollenbeck said.

As CNCC board members begin to formulate predictions for the college's 2004-05 budget, they're considering reducing residents' tuition assistance by at least 25 percent. The potential reduction could be as high as 50 percent.

With a 50 percent reduction in tuition assistance, a student taking 12 credit hours would have to pay $426 a semester. A 25 percent reduction at the same workload would cost a student $198 a semester.

CNCC board members discussed the option of using its $2.1 million reserve -- tentatively set aside for a campus expansion -- to help with tuition assistance.

"As the mill levy gets closer to ending, I'd like to see us roll our reserves over into tuition assistance," Board Member Link Derick said.

The voter-approved mill levy sunsets in 2008. At that time the board would have to ask voters to renew funding for tuition assistance.

But CNCC board President Peter Angstadt noted that a couple of measures winding through the legislature may already cut deeply into the Craig campus' reserves.

Though the Craig campus has experienced an 8 percent increase in full-time student enrollment -- which historically reflected in the college receiving more state dollars -- state funds for community colleges on the whole are decreasing.

"Internally now we're chasing a shrinking dollar base," Angstadt said.

Angstadt said CNCC started the fiscal year, July 1, 2003 needing to shave off almost a half-million dollars. He predicts the college will have succeeded in cutting that figure in half by the start of coming fiscal year, July 1.

Last year the CNCC system shaved off a total of 28 positions from its five campuses, which reduced its total budget 26 percent.

In 2002-03 CNCC received state funds of $4.9 million but last year the college was only allocated $4.5 million, said Les Marstella, the college's vice president of administrative services.

Yet lately, Angstadt has heard from state higher education officials to expect 5 percent less funding than the school received last year. And a bill in the legislature proposes to mandate a 3 percent wage increase for college classified employees. That would mean an additional $150,000 hit to CNCC funds.

A number of these variables will leave CNCC board members with a host of decisions to make for Craig campuses' budget, which should be ready for adoption in May.

"Everything is sort of waving around in a cloudy picture," Angstadt said. "I agree that maybe we should use up our reserves to provide a base. If students can't count on you for classes then you're lost."

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